Veterans with a history of PFAS exposure have a nearly 7% higher risk of developing bladder cancer
A study from the International Journal of Cancer examined the relationship between exposure to various solvents and bladder cancer risk. The participants were 113,343 cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, and 566,715 population controls selected according to country, sex, and birth year. Increased risks were observed for the following solvents at high exposure levels versus no exposure:
- aliphatic hydrocarbon solvents
- alicyclic hydrocarbon solvents
- aromatic hydrocarbon solvents
The highest excess for perchloroethylene was observed at a medium exposure level. Researchers found evidence of a strong association between exposure to trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and benzene and bladder cancer risk.
All of these solvents were lurking in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, which resulted in toxic exposure among more than one million people.
A statistically significant increased risk was observed for trichloroethylene and benzene at a high exposure level and perchloroethylene at a medium exposure level. The hazard ratios tended to be higher for bladder cancer diagnosed at ages below 50 for aliphatic and alicyclic hydrocarbon solvents, benzene, and toluene, while for trichloroethylene, the hazard ratio was highest in the elderly at high exposure levels.
Among both civilian and military firefighters, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found an excess risk of bladder cancer at younger ages. Furthermore, military firefighters have a 6.9% risk of developing bladder cancer. This is because of their excessive use of AFFF, a fire suppressant that is very effective in putting out jet fuel and petroleum fires but contains up to 98% PFAS. A study from Environmental Health Insights compared the risk in Merrimack, New Hampshire residents exposed to PFAS for 24 types of cancer.
The participants experienced a significantly high risk of bladder cancer. In fact, the disease was the second most common among the residents with a high PFAS level in their blood. The chemical PFOA was found to be the culprit behind the disease in Merrimack residents. The impact of PFAS exposure might be associated with changes to the cells in bladder tissue, which can eventually lead to bladder cancer. Finally, multiple other medical studies have shown that exposure to PFAS found in the blood of people may increase bladder cancer risk.
In addition to solvents and PFAS, the following toxic agents were identified as risk factors for bladder cancer in veterans, as some might have been present at Camp Lejeune:
- aniline dyes
Finally, it is essential to know that it can take up to 30 years after initial exposure to toxic chemicals before a condition such as bladder cancer starts developing. This is because the hazardous agents gradually accumulate in the body, which was the case of Camp Lejeune, where service members would regularly drink contaminated water and also cook with it. So, if you experience symptoms that might indicate bladder cancer, such as blood in the urine, lower back pain, and a frequent need to urinate, we strongly advise you to seek medical attention.